Multiliteracies in ELA Classrooms

Entries Tagged as 'Seminar Prompts'

E-literature posting

July 14th, 2013 · 2 Comments

The aim of my group’s presentation was to educate pre-service teachers on the nature and value of the little-known genre of e-literature. Through reading Hayles’ article and browsing the e-lit collections I was able to understand that e-literature is uniquely different from the popular digest of “ebooks”. That is, electronic literature is an entirely different platform for presentation of ideas; it involves moving parts and flashing signs that are all supposed to illustrate an abstract idea.This, admittedly,  made me nervous at first. How could I ask students to analyse a piece of e-literature when I myself am completely new to its format? The format of eliterature seemingly pervades typical literary analysis….I am completely unprepared to teach my students. Yet, the processes of teaching and learning are paradoxically connected; to teach is to learn and to learn is to teach. Thus, why should it be difficult to introduce this into a classroom setting—even if the teacher admits that she/he is still unfamiliar with the subject?

The issue with e-literature for me lies in its uncommonness. How will it be received by students and parents who are yet to become comfortable with comic books in the English Language curriculum? Most e-literature, that is, appears to be ‘a game’ or ‘video’ —not an ‘educational tool’ for most parents. How do we overcome these barriers? What’s shocking to me is the fact that through all my education I have never heard of e-literature. This is possibly due to the fact that its production involves a digital skill base that not all artists are familiar with. Whatever the issue, the fact that there lies scant review of the genre despite its age makes me question the value of e-literature. What more, I found that most of its works were too heavy-handed in their depiction of the abstract—there’s essentially little for the students to guess and unravel in most works. Sure, there are some solid artistic pieces such as “Girls Day Out” (the one Prof.Dobson showed in class) but for the most part, I wouldn’t use more than two or three pieces within the course of a school year. I enjoyed looking at this subject and exploring vintage computer operating systems, but ultimately, I would not throw out classical texts anytime soon.




Tags: Seminar Prompts

Social Media Ideas and Resources for ELA Classrooms

July 11th, 2013 · No Comments

  •  The Lizzie Bennet Diaries (LBD): a modern-day Vlog adaptation of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

–> The LBD website: (make sure to check out Lizzie’s tumblr and the other characters’ twitter accounts — they were more exciting when people were following the series play out in real time, but they’re still interesting to read!)

–> The first vlog in the series:


  • Animals quoting Shakespeare Tumblr:

Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts · Social Media

Blogging as Participation: The Active Sociality of a New Literacy

July 9th, 2013 · 1 Comment

Lankslear and Knobel discuss the influence and increasing popularity of blogging as a legitimate literacy.  They begin their argument with a differentiation of mindset between a tolerance for technology, with a focus on the individuals’ intelligence and ‘bookspace’ versus the collective intelligence created by the digital media space, in a world influenced by advances in technology. (Lankslear & Knobel, 2006).  This is an oversimplification, but the points remain valid: the juxtaposition of reluctance of embracing technological advances versus the embracing of the potential for technology.

The authors discuss the evolution of blogging from the early 1990s, where blogging was a forum for technologically astute, computer literate people.  However, by the late 1990s, blogging became readily accessible to the majority of the population and was more about being socially connected than being isolated.  Naturally part of the appeal is having instant recognition for your ideas or posts by friends or strangers, but also having a forum to voice your opinions about any issue or event.

One interesting phenomenon that results from blogging is that the more popular or controversial a post becomes, the greater the likelihood is that the originator of the post becomes more of a facilitator of their argument than an active participant. While this may create a deeper engagement with the content of the blog than with traditional published works, it also provides immediate feedback the ppossibility for revisions and corrections. However, it may remove the originator of the blog as a participant.

Obviously, this article was published 7 years ago and was starting to recognize the potential for influence  and legitimacy as a critical or analytical source, whereas today many people are dependent on blogs and social media to help them formulate their opinions on everything from where to eat, how to accomplish something, which teachers to avoid etc.

As a classroom tool, I believe that blogs are an excellent method for engaging a wide variety of responses from students.  On my practicum we used a variety of classroom blogs to keep students informed of classroom assignments, fieldtrips and to have a forum for current events.  Students were encouraged to participate on a weekly basis and to contribute ideas for journal writing prompts and classroom debate topics.  This was a successful way of monitoring class levels of engagement for topics and also it gave students who were reluctant to participate orally in class an opportunity to be heard.

Finally, the article concluded with a discussion of fan blogging and the impact it has on reality TV, but also over political campaigns, corporate images and the immediacy of disseminating all manner of information.

Work Cited: Lankshear, C. & Knobel, M. (2006) Blogging as Participation: The Active Sociality of a New Literacy. American Educational Research Association, San Francisco, US, April 11, 2006.

Blog post #1


Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts · Social Media

On the Origins of Adaptation: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and “Success”—Biologically

July 8th, 2013 · 4 Comments

Seminar Prompt

Andrew Knorr, Stephanie Moreno, Jacqueline Simpson, Christina Relkov

Bortolotti, G. and Hutcheon, L. (2007). On the Origin of Adaptations: Rethinking Fidelity Discourse and “Success” — Biologically. New Literary History, 38(3), pp. 443-458.

 In this discussion, we will summarize and discuss the argument put forth by Bortolli and Hutcheon, considering how this theory relates to our practice as English teachers. We will lead the class through an activity using Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” as a means of diagnosing our own theories of adaptation, namely how and in what ways we feel adaptations should or should not be faithful to the original.

To begin, consider this list of “The 15 Most Successful Book to Movie Adaptations”:


The Argument: The success of an adaptation should not be defined by how faithful it is to the original

The article we will be presenting on, by Bortolotti and Hutcheon, discusses the idea of similarities between biological adaptation and cultural (or narrative) adaptation. The authors present a homology – that both biological adaptation and cultural adaptation are processes of replication that evolve with changing environments and should not necessarily be judged by their faithfulness to their source. They argue that this perspective can lead to new questions and answers about narrative adaptation theory – including the cultural equivalent of the most basic question asked in biology, why does life exist in so many forms?…Why do the same stories exist in such a startling array of forms?


 Discussion Questions:

  1.  Overall, in the English classroom, when we choose what to show in classrooms, are we looking merely for whatever video is closest to the original text?
  2. What is the argument to for using whole movies vs. just clips of movies?
  3. Should English teachers take on the role of teaching film studies (on their own or in conjunction with texts)?

Next, Consider:

  1. As adaptations descend from their original in varying degrees, are cries against reinterpretation a reflection of personal aesthetic tastes, or can we view the response as politicized? Are adaptations necessarily anti-canonical, or do they reinforce the canon by achieving relevance for a new audience? And are those who stand in opposition to these reinterpretations too heavily invested in a supposed integrity of the canon?
  2. As teachers of literature, are we doing the original works a disservice by allowing the deviated forms to be presented as equal to them?
  3. Do adaptations need to be authorized in order to be valid?



Using the synopsis of Ray Bradbury’s “The Veldt” (and any knowledge of it that you may already have) – in your groups discuss how you would adapt this story to video form. Create a working storyboard, outlining how your adaptation would look, sound, and any other ideas that you think would be crucial to your adaptation. You will be pitching your film/television/webisode adaptation to the rest of the class, so be clear in describing how your adaptation will look.

Following the activity, and after having watched an adaptation of the story as a music video, consider the following points:

  1. What do you think of the adaptation we just watched?
  2. What would you have done differently in your own adaptation?
  3. Are there any other adaptations of this short story out there?
  4. In adapting the story to new media, are crucial elements lost? What can be gained from this sort of adaptation?
  5. Would you use something like this in your own classroom?
  6. What do you think Bortolotti and Hutcheon would have said about this adaptation?



Tags: adaptations · Presentation · Seminar Prompts

“I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy” Seminar Prompt

July 7th, 2013 · 4 Comments

YouTube Clip (a mystery until tomorrow!)


We thought this short clip an appropriate lead-in as the article considers the way advertisements (among other visual media) are constructed and how the deliberate construction of visual media influences viewers often subliminally, as the advertising agents fell prey to in this short clip.

In brief: The article’s goal is to raise awareness about the constructedness of visual media and to promote visual literacy in students and their practice of the critical reading of visual forms. 

Manipulating visual media to achieve the desired effect on the viewer – advertisers take advantage of this all the time.

This article stresses the importance of students gaining critical skills to be able to work through visual media.

SOME PRINCIPLES OF BUILDING VISUAL IMAGES (these are important to the construction of visual art, says Farmer)

“- A dot implies a focus or location.

– A line signifies borders and movement. Lines may be strong, dynamic, tentative, wavy, erratic, etc.

– Scale shows relationship of size between two objects, with the larger one usually connoting more power

– dimension suggests three dimensions and perspective; well-executed images may seem more real and credible

– texture generated tactile and visual sensations: of roughness, luxury, softness, age, and even revulsion

– value shows the lightness or darkness of an image; light is often associated with goodness and airiness while darkness may connote power and doom.”

Interesting to keep in mind is cultural difference especially in terms of the use of colour in a visual piece:

– In some cultures, yellow may be the colour of royalty – in others, it may be the colour of cowardice

– In some cultures, black may be the colour of death – in others, white may be representative of death

— without a knowledge of another culture’s visual coding system, it is possible that students may mis-read the image

It is now possible, with technology, to easily manipulate and change an image:

– cropping images to manipulate the context of the image

– changing the value and saturation of an image to change the emphasis of the image

– altering the hue of the image to mislead a viewer’s interpretation

– changing the relative size of the image to change it’s relative importance and perceived power in a frame

– adding or eliminating images to distort the truth

— the author stresses that students must be aware of how an image is constructed and how an image can be manipulated

— it is necessary to have learning activities that help students read visual images, analyze the producer of the image’s intent and just what the image is trying to convince the viewer to do/think

– think analyzing propaganda (this is a direct example of image construction, which seems obviously biased and forcefully persuasive as we analyze it in hindsight), similarly advertisements and other forms of visual media have been constructed with directed intent to manipulate a target audience

Suggestions for Activities (pg. 31):

Farmer suggests a range of activities, most of which have somewhat political explorations. Most of these can be easily used in an English, Socials, or Art classroom.

• Ask students to critique the visual images found in school and local publications: newsletters, yearbooks, and videos. What content is represented or omitted (e.g., gender, ethnicity, subgroups)? What perspectives are represented? What messages are being conveyed? What visual principles are used to convey those messages?

• Teach students how to manipulate images using photo editing software. Ask student pairs to manipulate an image to send opposing messages (e.g., one pro and one con). Ask peers to analyze the resultant visual images in light of the visual principles used.

• Ask students to photograph or videotape their schools or neighborhoods, and then compare their photos in terms of subject matter choice, perspective, and visual principles used. They might focus on people and compare their images. Then ask them to edit and sequence the images to communicate a persuasive message (e.g., athletic recruitment, real estate enticement, clean-up campaign).

• Ask students to locate online images about a social issue, and then analyze images in light of the disseminator’s perspective and intent. Ask them to identify how visual elements and principles are used to convey the underlying message.

• Ask students to locate online images about an international issue; each student (or small group) might choose a different country or culture. Ask them what visual principles appear to be universally applied or culturally defined. To what extent does culture impact the message?

• Consider visual representations of Canadian History. Which perspectives are present? Omitted? Do any of the images seems propagandistic? How might the pictures be different if they were from an alternate viewpoint? (Based on gender, race, socioeconomic status, etc.)

• Download a video of a public event or political rally. Ask students to edit that raw footage to create a 30-second advertisement or political announcement that intends to persuade the viewer to respond in a specific way. Each student (or small group) could be assigned a different audience (e.g., single mothers, rural poor, big business, senior citizens) to target his or her message.

Tips for students (how to critically analyze images):

The article includes a list of suggestions as to what teachers can do to help their students be more critical viewers. The author draws on Silverblatt (2001), who has created a framework that prescribes the following questions for viewers to consider:

1. What is the premise? Is it logical? What assumptions are made?

2. What is the explicit or implicit content?

3. What is the historical and cultural context? What worldview is being represented?

4. What is the emotional response? (I would say what is your response and what is the desired response, do you think?)

5. What genres or conventions are being used?

6. What is the conclusion or inference? Is it logical?

Farmer also includes the Centre for Media Literacy’s suggestions (2005) for how to be an analytical, thoughtful audience for persuasive instruments.

1. Who created the message?

2. Why was the message created and disseminated?

3. What visual techniques are used to draw attention to the message?

4. How might people experience the image differently?

5. What values, lifestyle, points of view are represented or omitted?

Both these are useful frameworks to consider. The second one is a bit more intuitive, as it follows the “who, what when, where, why?” model that students may already be familiar with.


     intro activity by showing imgur variations on a picture challenge to make posters for different movie genres:

original image:

as rom-com:

as a novel:

as horror:

     give groups of students different pictures/ ads from various magazines

     challenge students to manipulate/ change the photos to target a different demographic of their own choosing (e.g. male vs. female, kids vs. adults, teens vs. 40somethings, etc.) — OR to change the ad so that it’s advertising a completely different product/ idea

Discussion Questions:

1. Is it possible to overcome the power of subliminal messages? If not, what danger to the individual, if any, might this imply?

2. Do you think you would use any of these activities in your own classroom? Have you ever used activities like these in the classroom before?

3. How do you empower students to take visual literacy tools with them from the classroom into their daily lives? How do you ensure that building an awareness of visual image construction doesn’t stop with classroom learning?

4. How might you introduce your students to the “tips” for critical viewing we’ve covered? Do you think they’re worth sharing?

Works Cited

I See, I Do: Persuasive Messages and Visual Literacy. By: Farmer, Lesley S. J., MultiMedia & Internet@Schools, 15464636 Jul/Aug2007, Vol. 14, Issue 4


By: Allison Dixon, Ashlee Petrucci, Ilana Finkleman, Shannon Smart

Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts · Visual Literacy

Some Suggestions for Graphic Novel Studies

July 5th, 2013 · 2 Comments

Some Suggestions for Graphic Novels in the English Classroom

  • American Born Chinese — Gene Yang
  • Gunnerkrigg Court — Tom Siddell (webcomic)
  • Louis Riel — Chester Brown
  • Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography — Andrew Helfer
  • Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale: My Father’s History Bleeds — Art Spiegelman
  • Maus II: A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began — Art Spiegelman
  • Palestine — Joe Sacco
  • Persepolis — Marjane Satrapi
  • Red: A Haida Manga – Michael Yahgulanaas
  • Safe Area Goražde — Joe Sacco
  • Skim — Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki
  • The Rabbits — John Marsden
  • V for Vendetta — Alan Moore
  • Watchmen –– Alan Moore

Suggested Resources for Graphic Novel Study

Bakis, Maureen. The Graphic Novel Classroom: Powerful Teaching and Learning with Images. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2012. Print.

Bernard, Mark and James Bucky Carter. “Alan Moore and the Graphic Novel: Confronting the Fourth Dimension.” ImageText: Interdisciplinary Comics Studies Online Journal 1.2(2004): n. pag. Web. 20 Nov. 2009.

Carrier, David. The Aesthetics of Comics. University Park: Pennsylvania State UP, 2000. Print.

Duncan, Randy and Matthew J. Smith. The Power of Comics: History, Form and Culture. New York: Continuum, 2009. Print.

Eisner, Will. Comics & Sequential Art: Principles and Practice of the World’s Most Popular Art Form. Tamarac, FL: Poorhouse Press, 1985. Print.

“Graphic Novel / Comics Terms and Concepts.” ReadWriteThink. International Reading Association. IRA/NCTE, 2008. Web. 22 Oct. 2012.

Heer, Jeet and Kent Worcester (eds). A Comics Studies Reader. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 2009. Print.

McCloud, Scott. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. Print.

Meconis, Dylan. “How Now to Write Comics Criticism.” Dylan Meconis. 18 Sep. 2012. Web. 22 Oct. 2012.

Weaver, John C. “Reteaching the Watchmen.” Graphic Novel Reporter. The Book Report, Inc., 2009. Web. 22 Oct. 2012.

—. “Who Teaches the Watchmen?” Graphic Novel Reporter. The Book Report, Inc., 2009. Web. 22 Oct. 2012.

Wolk, Douglas. Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean. New York: Da Capo, 2007. Print.

Yang, Gene. “Graphic Novels in the Classroom.” Language Arts 85.3 (2008): 185-192. National Council of Teachers of English. Web. 22 Oct. 2012.


By: Katrina, Samantha, Dominic, and Zlatina

Tags: graphic novels · Presentation · Seminar Prompts

Visual Media Summary

July 3rd, 2013 · 5 Comments

What visual language is NOT:

–       semantic (comprised of arbitrary relationship between sounds and their meanings) –> not arbitrary

–       syntactic (following a set of rules which governs editing or montage) –> not set; more fluid

What visual language IS:

–       “analogical” –> showing similarity in things that may otherwise be dissimilar

  • i.e. shapes, colours and overall structure correspond with features of the real world
    • image and the message to be conveyed may not have to be visually similar –> “conceptual”
  • “nonrepresentational” images = abstract art (conceptual) à we are engaged in abstract analogy
    • i.e. MTV defying the norms of stylistic traits
  • i.e. graph, charts, models à link between representation of models and some physical quantity

–       this is important BECAUSE:

  • 1. analogy has been shown to be “the basic component of creativity in both [artistic creativity and scientific reasoning and discovery”
    • i.e. Friedrich von Kekule’s scientific discovery regarding the structure of the benzene molecule, when he applied the visual image of a snake which could move into a circle to the strings of atoms, which were previously believed to only be straight
  • 2. the image’s producer can illicit responses in people by showing certain images that conjure up personal meaning for the viewer (“paraproxemics” as labelled by Meyrowitz)
    • i.e. changing the camera angles to make someone look bigger/more powerful
    • “because they appear to be simple extensions of our everyday, real-world perceptual habits, we may interpret them without much conscious awareness or careful scrutiny… mak[ing] them an especially elusive means of audience manipulation, requiring special attentiveness on the part of the critically inclined viewer”


–       “lacks explicit relational indicators”

  • images must often use verbal text (or contextual clues in film) to help the reader interpret the meaning of the visual structure
    • i.e. two ads using the same photo, one as an antihistamine and one as an Echinacea Herb.
    • i.e. memes!!!
  • therefore, visuals WITHOUT verbal text can convey messages that may be socially unacceptable to portray WITH verbal text
    • i.e. cigarettes and alcohol

–       this is important BECAUSE:

  • we must “encourage viewers to examine the extent to which they themselves have accepted the implications of that syntax”
    • teach students to become critical viewers

–       there must be “heightened attention to visual literacy in educational curricula – not in competition with verbal language learning, but as a valuable component to it”


Discussion Questions:

1. What is the main message in this article? Based on the thesis it presents, how might this line of thinking influence how we approach visual literacy in the secondary classroom?

2. In our English Language Arts classrooms, what are some ways that we can we use visual literacy to promote learning? (Brainstorm practical ideas and examples)

3. How can we “encourage viewers to examine the extent to which they themselves have accepted the implications of that syntax?” or, ensure that our students are critical of visual literacies that are presented in class? Do you think that there is a more effective way of teaching students to be critical viewers of visual literacy than another?

4. The article presents two different ways of being visually literate. To what extent do you feel these literacies are one or the other? Is one more important that the other?

5. How are visual images analogical?  The article asks “what are the broader consequences of the analogical nature of visual language?” and “what difference does it make that visual literacy is so largely a matter of analogical perception and cognition?” Do you agree that visual images are analogical?

6. What is our role as educators in teaching the implications of visual syntax?  How do we educate students to recognize implied information in visual texts and to critically assess information they are viewing from visual texts?

Tags: Presentation · Seminar Prompts

The Multiliteracies Manifesto: Twenty Years On

July 3rd, 2013 · 4 Comments

The New London Group is a collective of 10 researchers who met in 1994 to discuss what they perceived to be a fundamental societal problem:

that the disparities in educational outcomes did not seem to be improving. We agreed that we should get back to the broad question of the social outcomes of language learning, and that we should, on this basis, rethink the fundamental premises of literacy pedagogy in order to influence practices that will give students the skills and knowledge they need to achieve their aspirations. (NLG, 1996)

In their “programmatic manifesto,” they outline a number of changes that demand corresponding changes in instructional methodologies. These include the following:

    – Changes in Technology for Knowledge Mobilization
    – Changes in Workplace (e.g., PostFordism and Fast Capitalism)
    – Changes in Public Lives (e.g., privatization, deregulation, corporatization of education — market logic)
    – Changes in Political Logic (e.g., Old World [standardization] / New World [assimilation] logic)
    – Shifts in cultural and linguistic diversity

In contemplating how to move forward, they introduce the notion of design, which “recognizes the iterative nature of meaning-making, drawing on Available Designs to create patterns of meaning that are more or less predictable in their contexts” (NLG, 1996). Designing, they argue, “always involves the transformation of Available Designs; it always involves making new use of old materials” (NLG, 1996). They also note that Available Designs are varied, identifying the following: Linguistic Design, Visual Design, Audio Design, Gestural Design, Spatial Design, and Multimodal Design. For students to be successful, they argue, they invariably require a metalanguage to describe and reflect on their design process.

Finally, the New London Group observes

pedagogy is a complex integration of four factors: Situated Practice based on the world of learners’ Designed and Designing experiences; Overt Instruction through which students shape for themselves an explicit metalanguage of Design; Critical Framing, which relates meanings to their social contexts and purposes; and Transformed Practice in which students transfer and re-create Designs of meaning from one context to another. (NLG, 1996; bold added)

The above-summarized document is one of the most cited in contemporary literacy research. Although the authors describe it as “open and tentative,” and welcome debate and elaboration, there has been little critique of the ideas espoused. Rather, as Leander and Boldt (2013) observe, “More than any other document, ‘A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies’ streams powerfully through doctoral programs, edited volumes, books, journal reviews, and calls for conference papers, as the central manifesto of the new literacies movement,” and is the dominant conceptual paradigm in new literacy studies. A design paradigm, they posit, is not the only way to conceptualize literacy studies and has some key limitations.

Contemplating the NLG article and the above discussion, here are some questions for your consideration:

    1. What appears to be the premise, or purpose, of education in the NLG’s view? Are there other valid purposes of education that might productively be considered?

    2. In 1994 the NLG were concerned that “the disparities in educational outcomes did not seem to be improving.” In your estimation has there been any advancement in terms of erosion of such disparities? If not, why not?

    3. To what extent are students availing themselves of the gamut of “Available Designs”? If they are not doing so, what might be the main barriers?

    4. Look up the definition and etymology of design in multiple sources, including the OED. Do you feel the paradigm introduced — learning as design — is a useful one? Are you able to propose any other productive approaches?

    5. The NLG notes that they are from disparate parts of the world; however, the ten researchers represent only 3 countries: Australia, Britain and the United States. Expanding on question 3, what approaches might have emerged in a meeting of a more diverse group of researchers?

    6. A key challenge identified in education is that young people appear to shift from an innate desire to learn in preschool and non-formal settings to recalcitrance in formal settings. Some claim, in keeping with the NLG manifesto, that this is because content and instructional approaches are too far removed from students’ diverse experiences and interests. Would you agree and, if so, is the approach identified by the NLG one way to ameliorate this challenge?

    7. Finally, contemplate the two images at the bottom of this post. These images, as you likely know, are “Wordles,” essentially simple visualizations of the word frequency in two different documents, where larger words represent greater instance of that term in the document (“stop words” — common English words — are omitted here so that the focus can be on “content” words). The texts visualized are the NLG article (1994) and Leander and Boldt’s response (2013). Which is which? Can anything be gleaned about the nature or focus of these texts from simply examining word frequency in these two documents?

Upload your group’s thoughts on these questions as a comment to this post.


Leander, K., & Boldt, G. (2013). Rereading “A Pedagogy of Multiliteracies” Bodies, Texts, and Emergence. Journal of Literacy Research, 45(1), 22-46. (UBC Electronic Holdings)

New London Group. (1996). A pedagogy of multiliteracies: Designing social futures. Harvard Educational Review, 66(1), 60-92.

Tags: Seminar Prompts